Rabies Rant II Who thinks this is a good idea?

Filed under: @ 7:56 pm

The (relatively) new head of King County Animal Services, a DVM epidemiologist who has been part owner of a multi-specialty practice in Chicago, but who has never practiced medicine in the trenches, has a proposal.

King County Animal Services, like much of the rest of the county, has been dealing with tight budgets and is looking for new sources of revenue. Or new ways to enhance current sources of revenue. Understand that I am fully in favor of KCAC being able to hire and pay the personnel that they need, I’m *absolutely* in favor of a robust animal control presence in this region.


Dr. Epidemiologist, the possessor of one of the slickest politician smiles I’ve ever been witness to, proposes that, to increase licensing revenues for the county, DVMs practicing within the county turn over the contact information of every owner of every pet that we vaccinate for rabies so that the county can compare those lists to the lists of people who have animal licenses. And if there is a vaccinated pet without a license, send a note to the owner saying “Hey! Your pet isn’t licensed! Give us $30!”

This strikes those of us practicing small animal medicine within King County as A Bad Idea!

Think…You take your cat in for a rabies vaccine. Your veterinarian is then obligated by law to give your contact information to the county so that they can see whether or not you’ve licensed your pet.
It means a breach in the confidentiality of your personal information.
It means that your $15 rabies vaccination now costs $45.

What those of us in the trenches are concerned about is a couple of things.
One, people will start assuming that we DVMs are representatives of the county government. Bad or good, that’s not what I signed up to be.
Two, people will be more reluctant to have their pets vaccinated for rabies if it means that the county is going to nose into their business. Dr. Epidemiologist isn’t concerned about a decrease in the number of rabies vaccinations in the county because Washington doesn’t have a very high rabies rate. *I* care about a decrease in the number of rabies vaccines in the county! *I* think it’s probably a public health concern!
And what Dr. Epidemiologist doesn’t take into account is that while a decrease in the number of vaccinations might not be a big concern to the overall public health, a decrease in vaccination revenue is a big concern to those of us who run a small business. Veterinary medicine is not a high profit type business, the profit margin is _very_ slim and getting slimmer due to the loss of pharmacy revenue that is happening because big box stores are now carrying veterinary prescription medication (don’t get me started on that). If a 10% decrease in rabies vaccinations (the number that Dr. Epidemiologist is throwing about) is acceptable in regards to public health, a 10% decrease in my vaccination revenue is NOT!
Three, if people can’t get their pets vaccinated in this county without the county getting all up in their faces, they’ll take their pets to another county. For vaccinations, for sick pet visits…. Less business income in this county means a decreased tax base in this county. And people very much are willing to take their pets on rather extended drives to get to a veterinarian who agrees with them. I work in Renton and I do have clients who bring me their pets from Black Diamond, North Bend, Samammish. It’s not uncommon.

I took an oath.
Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge. I will practice my profession conscientiously, with dignity, and in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics. I accept as a lifelong obligation the continual improvement of my professional knowledge and competence.

Dr. Epidemiologist, you tell me where in that oath I swore it says “I will improve the revenue stream of King County Animal Control by giving my clients’ personal information to the county so they can be policed and harassed for no good reason” and I’ll do it. Otherwise I think the county will have to find another way to increase their revenue stream. This is a hill on which I am willing to die.

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